Volume 95, Issue 53

Wednesday, December 5, 2001
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Are women safe at Western?

USC begins quest for relevance

War at home and abroad

Tuition increase scares students

Enviro-hippies attack bio-food at Loblaws

Prof: war tribunals problematic

Prof: war tribunals problematic

By Tait Simpson
Gazette Staff

A Western law professor has expressed serious concerns with the methods the United States may soon be using to prosecute war criminals.

"The proposed use of military tribunals raises important human rights issues," said Joanna Harrington, an expert in international criminal law, human rights and extradition.

Harrington has served as a consultant to the British Council in the Ukraine and the Judicial Studies Board in England and Wales.

She said she feels strongly that the proposals being put forth will offer little fairness to those targeted by U.S. authorities.

"[U.S.] President George W. Bush wants there to be no boundaries set to limit the ability of authorities to go after suspected terrorists and war criminals," she said. "Without a time limit or specific scope, too many cases can be tried under these proposed war tribunals."

Harrington said she believes the use of secret military tribunals, as proposed by Bush, will endanger the right to a public trial with an independent and impartial jury.

"Trying a suspected terrorist in front of a specially created court comprised of military [officials] and in secret raises very real concerns about the ability to protect the basic human right to a fair trial," she said.

"If you have people trying the case who have a prior responsibility to the government, there is a clear conflict of interests there," Harrington said. "The basic question with the proposal becomes, why are ordinary American courts not good enough?"

Other Canadian legal experts questioned the measures being proposed by the U.S. to try to apprehend and convict terrorists.

"Society must be protected from the threat of terrorists and terrorism, but this threat must not force us to abandon those very things that make us a free society," said Vern Krishna, treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Harrington said she has seen a lukewarm reaction from Canadians, despite observing that many Americans have opposed the idea of secret war tribunals.

Vick Toews, justice critic for the Canadian Alliance, said military tribunals have been deemed justified, but war tribunals are not expected to be utilized by Canada.

"In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has held up the ability of military tribunals to conduct a fair and legal trial for non-U.S. citizens," Toews said.

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